Gun trafficking operation uncovered - FOX 13 News

Gun trafficking operation uncovered

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents serving a search warrant in St. Petersburg's Old Northeast found more than they were looking for. Chemicals found in a backyard shed required blocking traffic around a residence at 3010 First Street North for a couple of hours.

"The chemicals that they say are present…can be readily mixed to possibly form an explosive substance but that has to be determined first," supervisory special agent Kevin Richardson explained. Later he told FOX 13 News the chemicals were "precursory", describing them as some, but not all, of the chemicals required to become explosive.

Richardson said the search also yielded 16 firearms of various types, suspected silencers for firearms, and equipment for building and/or modifying firearms. The owner of the home, 59-year old Pierre Diligent, was taken into custody for psychiatric evaluation. He was not immediately charged with any specific crime.

The application for the search warrant said weapons recovered after crimes in other jurisdictions caught the attention of ATF investigators. All were traced back to the St. Petersburg address. Five specific firearms are mentioned: One recovered in a section of Los Angeles "…notorious for cocaine base and methamphetamine sales by criminal street gang members, another recovered in Orlando, and three in Puerto Rico. The first recovery was in December 2008, and the fifth was in February 2012.

The warrant also says Diligent bought multiple weapons from a pair of gun shops on Ulmerton Road in Largo. It noted 10 multiple weapons purchases, for a total of 32 firearms. Richardson said ATF's intelligence gathering tactics target that sort of activity, "…trying to detect what we call trafficking…people that try to divert firearms out of the legal market."

As an example, a hand gun that costs $200 in Florida might cost four times as much in a state that strictly regulates firearms.

"The market value causes this aspect of firearms trafficking," Richardson said.

Diligent's home is directly across the street from Coffee Pot Park, so the police activity caught the attention of neighbors and passersby.

"I had no clue -- no clue. That's scary" said one woman who said she passes by the home frequently. Keith Benson, who lives a block away, said the firearms are one thing, but the chemicals "…are a whole different kettle of fish." Noting that "accidents happen," Benson added "We certainly wouldn't appreciate a good portion of the neighborhood being blown up."

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